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Thus Zoda

Zoda -- An Introduction

Zoda is my once in awhile friend who hangs out with me in Palmer's Square. She is from somewhere in East Europe where there is a shortage of economic opportunities and apparently vowels for last names.

Now Zoda doesn't really hang out with me, she and I are just there at the same time, quite often. She rides a bike and I go there to get a tan and to listen to my music.

She's a very wise woman. In fact she's probably the only person, in the world, who can actually fool Mother Nature.

Everyday she is in the park she is constantly knitting. She has enough yarn to cover the Golden Gate Bridge, yet for some reason she appears to be stuck in a time warp. Every time I see her knitting, she seems to just be starting to knit a baby bootie or scarf.

Zoda is 78 years old and doesn't look a day over 90. She spends most of the day there petting dogs, talking to me and doing those complicated handshakes with people, who if I wasn't with Zoda, I'd be afraid of.

Despite this they seem to like her, although she constantly correcting them. Due to her vast experience fighting Nazis, in wherever she was originally from, she is fearless. After all what are a couple of gangbangers compared to Hitler, or so she explains, as if she somehow participated in hand-to-hand combat with "der Führer" himself.

Zoda is tough it comes naturally seeing that she comes from a long line of army deserters and nasty drunks.

And despite her ability to put curses on you, she is liked, perhaps for the Slavic swear words she teaches, or her inane or should I say "insane" way of thinking. She has a husband, perhaps, I never could find out for sure. All I know is, if he does exist he is, like all men, a bumb.

Zoda isn't able to give people the evil eye, but she does spend a large part of the afternoon giving them the finger.

We're friends because, well I like her, and she somehow feels it's her obligation to pick lint off my shirts.

The Cookie Monster

Zoda keeps a picture of the cookie monster in her wallet. I don't know why? Now follow this close. Zoda says that when she shows people pictures of her grandchildren, people think, that she thinks, that the cookie monster is one of her grandchildren, but she doesn't.

I said of course they don't think that, they just think you're insane. She snuffs of the idea that anyone would think she's a crazy old lady, after all old ladies don't ride bikes.

They play bridge and bake cookies, neither of what she does. Zoda buys cookies, and she has a propensity for fig newtons, the world's only rotten cookie.

One day I asked her "Why do you keep a picture of the cookie monster in your wallet." She looked at me like that was a really stupid question and replies "Why he's adorable?" "What about you're grandchildren and children?" I asked. "Well not as much," she replied. She was right too. Her grandkids were only cute because, well because, God makes kids that way so their parents don't beat them up. Still in all those grandkids are not as cute as the cookie monster.

Did she tell her grandkids or children they weren't as cute as the cookie monster? "Good GOD no!" She told me. "You don't tell people things like that, you lie to them." Of course it probably would simplify the whole matter to NOT keep a picture of the cookie monster in your wallet, but what do I know. After all I'm from the generation that was taught not to lie. You know the generation that is pretty much screwed up head to toe.

"So you don't think you're kids and grandkids are as 'adorable' as the cookie monster?" I asked. "Not really," she said. "Then why keep their pictures in your wallet." "I love them," she explained.

So I guess that's it in a nutshell, things that are adorable aren't necessarily the things you love. And you can even love things you don't find adorable.

Thus Zoda

Sissies

Zoda don't like sissies. She has nothing against gay people, she just hates sissies. They are ruining the nation you know. "Why on earth would any nice young man want to put an earring on his ear. It's disgusting." Of course she never was able to tell me why a nice young girl would want to put an earring on her ear, but I was just confusing her. So she remains firm, men are men and whether they sleep with other men or women the only thing that matters is they aren't sissies. And all men who wear earrings are sissies, period, end of discussion. Didn't they lose us the war in Vietnam? You didn't see any longhaired hippie, dress wearing, purse carrying men in World War II.

I asked her about pirates; how they wore earrings. She told me she wasn't talking about fictional characters.

I first found this sissy hatred right after I met Zoda. She kept bugging me to go out with her granddaughter, Cynthia. It was "Cynthia this" and "Cynthia that", till I got fed up and said "Look Zoda, I don't even like girls I'm gay." Without missing a beat, she said "Oh then you'll want to meet my nephew Kenny." Kenny's all right, you see he may have sex with a man but he doesn't wear an earring.

Last year she asked me if I was going to the Gay Pride Parade, she wasn't going, too many sissies ruin it. I told her no, I didn't like the crowds. She told me she hates crowds and the pushy people on the busses and subways. "What you have to do is kick them, and then they get right out of your way," added Zoda. Nice logic and it probably works when you're a nine thousand years old, but I have too many of my original teeth to test out this logic.

Zoda is from my father's generation and I've yet to figure out what the word "hate" means to them. For as much as Zoda hates sissies with ear rings she certainly spends a lot of time with these ear ring wearing gangbangers, in the park talking to them. So I asked her, if she didn't like sissies with earrings, why then does she talk to them? "Well it would be rude not to. Imagine how awful the world would be if people went around ignoring people and being unkind just because they didn't like them."

Good Point, just because you don't like someone is not a license to be rude or unkind

Thus Zoda.

Beauty

Zoda was a beauty in her day. She once showed me a yearbook. I was shocked to see how she was the queen of her dance. Surprisingly it was hard to picture Zoda as anything but old. It felt a little bit odd that other people once saw this still vibrant but elderly person as HOT.

I once asked Zoda how old does a woman get before she quits wanting sex. She said, "I don't know, you should ask someone older than me. As far as I'm concerned I'll never get over that hill."

The Brother

Zoda's brother lives with her and possibly her husband, if he isn't dead yet. I could never pronounce his name so have just settled on calling him sir. In his day he worked for the post office. He is a very quite old man. Thin and nervous, except when he smokes, which is almost always. The site of him without a cigarette being held between two lips is almost unimaginable. Of course it is only when Zoda isn't the picture. This man truly believes he has fooled Zoda into believing he quit smoking years ago.

Whenever I see him he is always fixing something. I think after he fixes something at night Zoda comes in and breaks it so he'll have something to keep him busy. I love to talk with him because he has stories that are always plain and undoctored. I can't tell a dull story, without interesting it up a little but his "matter of fact," attitude and his ability to keep the benign interesting amazes me. If I am just handing him a tool he keeps me fascinated by his tales of Chicago when it was a city to live in back in the 30s.

Although he says he can't see with his glasses he never seems to be wearing them. "Too much bother you know," is his simple matter of fact explanation.

Crosswords

I was in one of my anxiety periods so I was on the bench instead of tanning and doing the crossword in the Chicago Tribune; anything to distract me from my worry, when I hear, "The answer is xxx. "

I turn around to find my favourite geriatric Zoda, "Sorry," I say, "It don't fit, one to many letters," "Well then try xxxx" was the answer, "It's wrong," "But it fits," was the reply. "But now the reply don't match the question," I say. "Then just write my original answer in." "Too many letters, I said" "So just write smaller. I haven't got all day to help you, now wonder you're single."

Now how did I know that was going to be the answer she'd give me.

Thus Zoda.

Songs

Rap has not endearment to Zoda, who, like me can't figure out the appeal of someone talking like a baby, to a drumbeat that repeats the same three beats ad nauseum.

I remember Zoda trying to sing a song called "Tallahassee" She started T-A-Double L-A-H-A-S spells Tall..well that doesn't spell anything does it?"

Expressions

Zoda like other old people uses older expressions like "You're darn tootin.' Funny how it is irritating if young people using but you kind of expect it from old people.

Sex and the Geriatric

Zoda likes to talk about sex. She doesn't exactly talk about it she just brings it up. Like many from the older generation sex was talked about, it just wasn't specifically brought up.

Zoda once asked me why I couldn't get a date. It kind of bugged me she didn't ask IF I couldn't get a date, no she asked WHY I couldn't get a date, as if she knew. Of course she's right but it's bad enough to have to spend my day talking to someone doing intricate handshakes with gangbangers, but now she knows stuff without me asking. There is nothing weirder than a spooky old lady.

Anyway I told her I didn't know I was single. I try; I go to bars, social settings, the clubs, the Internet. That is when she interrupted me. She said she heard a lot about that "online sex," and she thought about getting a computer to have some. Then she said, "The only thing is I can't figure out how it works." So I told her, "You go into a chatroom and find someone you like and you type dirty words back and forth." "I know that," she said "Where does the sex part come in?" I told her you have to supply that yourself. "What's the point? I do that already every day," she continued. Now I could've gone all day without hearing that particular piece of information.

Then there was the time she read about anal sex. She told me she though only gay people could do that. I told her anyone with a butt could do it. "I got one of those," she said. "Obviously," I said since we were both sitting on our asses at the time. "Hmmm," she said, "I'll have to give this a good think." Nice to know people who are 150 years old are not only getting sex, they are probably getting kinky sex as well.

Zoda is very responsible; she informs me that if she did ever follow through on Internet sex, she'd insist on condoms so she doesn't get one of them diseases. As for the thought the anal sex, as thought provoking as it is, she, as of yet, has no intention of making "ass babies."

Thus Zoda.

A Dirty Mind

Zoda liked the black and white TV shows. Because as she says "You know they have people on it that are going to kiss, but that's all, well that's all you see."

She further explains: "Like Bewitched, in the beginning, when Elizabeth Montgomery is a cartoon. You see she's flying all over the place and since she's on a broom in a dress you know she's really saying 'Look up my dress at my witch, ah, stuff. ' Then you see her in the kitchen shaking the top part of her witch, ah, 'stuff' while she's frying. ("Nice metaphor Zoda" I'm thinking), Then comes in a cartoon Darrin and he's thinking, 'Mmmm gonna get me some witch, ah, stuff. ' Then Samantha turns into cat and the cartoon Darrin just looks down and says, 'Now I'm gonna get some kitty, ah stuff. ' See in those days they'd never even think to say pussy, so they make it a cat so you'd think about pussy but not know it. Anyway Samantha turns leaps up in cartoon Darrin's arms and becomes a person, because to do it with a cat, is just wrong. Then a big black cloud of smoke comes in and covers the two cartoons up but you just KNOW they is buys doing the nasty behind it.

That's the way sex was in B&W TV you knew things without seeing it. Because in those days sex was in the mind, and that is where dirty thoughts belonged.

Thus Zoda

He says / She Says / Sex Says / Mark Says

Tatiana and Morgan Slamenski are a couple that often come to Palmer's Square for the picnics that are often given. Unlike most of the older generation in the park, they are lucky to still have each other. Spouses, rather breathing spouses are not a common commodity among this lot. They been married for 50 years. Yes they are old, but they are in love and vibrant and most surprisingly at all, virtually no different from the any newlywed couple.

In fact they too are curious about sex and the subject comes up often.

For instance when I asked Tatiana how many times she has sex? She says, "Hardly ever, only three or four times a week."

Then I ask her husband Morgan "How many times a week do you have sex?" Oh constantly he says, three or four times a week."

OK I want to beat them both with a stick.

Mrs Vanameyer

Now I like Zoda and I enjoy her company. But knitting and hanging around in a park, Zoda tends to attract other old ladies, and not all of them are as kind. Although all are just as interesting

One of Zoda's old lady friends is Mrs. Vanameyer. She sometimes hangs out with us in the park and tells us how to do it right. Doesn't matter what IT is, for we are inarguably doing whatever IT is wrong.

She is about 11 million years old. This makes here older than Zoda. This also makes her old enough to actually be her own mother. Hell she possibly was around to tell God what he was doing was wrong and how she would have done it different. Not better mind you, but different. She weighs about 97 pounds of which 25 are makeup

Funny but everyone refers to her as Mrs. Vanameyer, even Zoda. Zoda explained you should always refer to older people by their last name unless they give you permission otherwise. It's only respectful.

I guess this is why Mrs. Vanameyer gets to call everybody "shithead."

Still Mrs Vanameyer is loved by the neighborhood kids, for her kindness, her warmth and her ability to purchase liquor and forget she did.

Zoda says it is improper for me to buy her or her lady friends ice cream and so does Mrs. Vanameyer, she insists she owe me the money.

I'd rather buy it for her outright and let the matter drop, because getting it paid back is a struggle. Zoda insists that I not let that "disagreeable old crone," stiff me out of the price of an ice cream.

So here Mark goes to collect the price of an ice cream.

First I have to ring her doorbell, and it better not be during her stories or when she is busy, because she just ignores you. TV is intense to her, and as it is, for some reason, it takes her two hours to watch 60 Minutes.

Perhaps she can't hear, but she doesn't respond quickly at any rate. Eventually, you'll hear her bump into a lot of things, shoving them aside with her cane. "Yes," she'll ask. "Ah the money, you told me to come to your house and get it." I say.

"I ain't got no damn money, besides you aren't the paperboy."

"I'm not the paperboy, I am Mark, and you don't even take the paper," I explain. As a matter of fact I don't think they even have paperboys anymore. "Yesterday I bought you an ice cream and you insisted I drop by so you could pay me back."

"Mark, why he lives up the street about 4 blocks on Kedzie."

"I am Mark I know where I live."

"Then why don't you come in? It's cold, you'll freeze me," says Mrs. Vanameyer with urgency in her voice

Then I guess it was probably stupid for me to be wearing a tank top and shorts.

Mrs. Vanameyer is always cold even when it's 109F

"Well sit down and have some candy while I get my purse," she tells me as I stare at some candy likely purchased at the 1934 Chicago World's Fair.

Mrs. Vanameyer comes back in the room, "Oh dear, you gave me a surprise," she'll say, as if it's some mystery why I am in her living room. "Now here you go," she says paying me the 75¢

And of course I'm all like "Oh goody all in pennies. Can't get enough of those now can I?"

"Now if you were staying longer," she says as she shuffles me out of the door, "I'd be happy to give you a muffin," curiously letting me know I am not welcome to them.

And I'm out the door till next time. With a pocketful of jingling pennies and the thought "Well I'll never have any use for this." The same thoughts all of my dates seem to have about me.

But all things considered Mrs. Vanameyer is a good lady.

True she is need of a good ironing and walks around with a cane the kind with the four prongs at the bottom. And she is perpetually stooped over, unless IT isn't correct. IT can be anything, she finds important, and then she possesses the remarkable ability to stand at attention, like when she walks past a house with a flag and she salutes it. "Rotten kids, don't know nothing about respect," is her theory about the flags and today's youth. Given enough minutes in an hour Mrs Vanameyer is always finding rotten things about rotten kids. Remarkably the last time there weren't any rotten kids was 1943.

She's also able to drive a car. I don't know exactly what kind it is except that it's very large. Or maybe Mrs. Vanameyer is just very small. Either way it's a sight. Unlike other old folk Mrs. Vanameyer does have the ability to see over the steering wheel and be seen in her car too.

Generally it takes her two hours to get from her house to her car, two more hours to back the car out of the driveway and sixteen seconds to go 10 miles to the Jewel grocery store. It kind of reminds you of the "running of the bulls," in Spain with people diving out of the way.

Even though Mrs. Vanameyer lives in the past I must admit that she will on occasion try to bring herself up to the current.

For instance she still called Brazil Nuts, "Nigger Toes." I have told her that they are not called "Nigger Toes" now. And that it isn't considered correct to call them "Nigger Toes," in fact it's offensive. I tell her to call them Brazil Nuts

Not wanting to offend, the next time I have a can of mixed nuts, she says, "give me some of those, wait a minute, what did you say I should call them, oh yeah 'Brazil Niggers'."

Thus Mrs. Vanameyer

The Rest of the Group

I like when Zoda and her old lady friends gather for a small picnic-like gathering in Palmer's Square. It's an amazing display, old ladies coming from miles around all bringing Jell-O molds. At first I thought it was a teeth thing, you know soft food but it isn't. I was amazed at, not only how many different kinds of Jell-O there are but also what you can put in it. Soft food? Get real; these Jell-O molds have marshmallows, Rice Krispies, fruit chunks, pretzels, Fritos, chocolate bars, peanut butters and nuts. If it can be held up by Jell-O, someone will have put it in there.

All these old ladies seem to be named Clara, Mabel or Esther. Eventually all the ClaraMabelEsthers call their husbands to eat. In addition to the Jell-O, there seems to be mounds of pork, deviled eggs, creamed corn, butter biscuits and anything else that contains evil amounts of cholesterol. Of course the men try to pile on as much as possible onto thin paper plates bought from the dollar store.

This isn't so much about eating or visiting it's about getting the most on your plate and eating in bulk.

"Make sure you all have room for cake," says another one of the ClaraMabelEsthers. As if anyone, in the world, would ever NOT have room for cake. I will say that these old ladies can make dessert and it's none of that low fat stuff either. A pound cake is a pound of butter.

At these functions, the ClaraMabelEsthers were usually relegated to one corner feeding swarms of people, carefully assessing that whatever you brought to the picnic wasn't as good as what they brought.

While the women fuss, the husbands and other men folk of the ClaraMabelEsthers are off chomping food, and between bites, discussing world issues. "Now if you ask me," each of the men would start out; though if you listened closely you'd realize no one ever did "ask" them. And each man was careful to "top" the other one. Debates include such wonderful things such as "how the country went to hell since the women got the right to vote," and "how the country went to hell since the hippies took over."

I guess there was a lot of truth to "the country going to hell," because it was beyond a certainty that these picnics were planned for the hottest muggiest day of the year. I guess this gave them more to talk about.

Although none of them ever seemed to talk about how bad the weather was. This was mostly due to the fact if you mentioned it the response was inevitably "Muggy? Why young man, in my day, the weather was much worse, in the 1930s we had hotter weather AND dust storms to contend with."

Thus the ClaraMabelEsthers's husbands would win again.

With Friends Like These

I have just that much more to be happy about


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